Way back in the 1950’s a singing group named The Platters had a hit song called The Great Pretender. The first verse goes like this:
Oh yes, I'm the great pretender, Pretending I'm doing well.
My need is such, I pretend too much, I'm lonely but no one can tell.
The apostle Peter could have sung that song with a couple of minor changes:
Oh yes, I’m the great pretender, Pretending I’m just like a Gentile.
My need is such, I pretend too much, I’m a hypocrite and Paul can tell!
Here in this portion of Paul’s letter we see Peter doing something that God never called Him to do! To pretend to be someone you’re not and to change others to be like you in order to find grace and peace with God. Peter was a man who had a right belief/faith, but wrong practice at times to fit in. See! On one hand Peter preached the clear gospel faithfully and on other hand he reverting back to the traditions of men out of fear. This isn’t something new but an old tradition engraved on the heart of sinners. The battle of the Church today and the battle of salvation has always been works to earn favor; versus faith and grace which is a gift from God.
What do I mean by that statement! Ever since that time of Cain and Abel there has been two distinct lines of works and faith in man’s religious life. Whosoever follows the way of man (like Cain), whatever it is, follows Satan’s lie. But, the person who follows God’s way follows the way of Abel. In Peters case we would say “Well he should have known better.” But let’s take a moment in Peter’s shoes and see what would cause him to do what he did and to be rebuked for it. First off! Antioch was made up largely of Gentile Christians. When Peter first arrived there everything seemed good! Peter came to the church and he began to eat and had wonderful time of fellowship with them. We would say “That’s good Peter, keep it up buddy.” This is a big deal for Peter….especially since he is of Jewish descent. See…..for centuries Jews were known for their strict Laws and separation from Gentiles. Under the Old Covenant God had established certain dietary Laws and other Commandments intended to keep the Jews from intermingling with the Gentiles.
Gentiles ate food that were forbidden or considered unclean to the Jewish people. But it wasn’t only food! To even sit with a Gentile at the table was considered unclean or impure. So Peter was doing very well up to this point! For Peter to sit and dine with a Gentile was more than just food. It was considered a sign of approval or acceptance. This is why the Jewish Leaders questioned why Jesus ate with such unclean people. “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:16. What Peter was doing was exactly what Jesus preached to the Religious leaders about.
This all began for Peter when He met a God fearing man named Cornelius in Acts 10:9-36. Peter went to his house and dined with him and Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household. In Acts 10:44-48 we read “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles…..” When Cornelius and his family heard the Good News they embraced the gospel with joy and adoration. In Acts 11:18 we read “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." So according to Peter’s ministry, everything was going great! But something happened to Peter that caused him to according to Paul’s letter to “Draw Back” and separate himself from the people in Antioch. The action of “Drawing Back” gives a strong message to the Gentiles that they may not be fully accepted before God. This man (Peter) who faithfully preached the truth of the gospel was now “withdrawing” or to disengage himself in fear of something or someone!
Why? The answer is found in (v12) “the Circumcision Party” These were Jews who professed faith in Christ, but were self-righteous hypocrites…… whose doctrine were heretical and there tactics were down right deceitful. Peter knew the gospel and believed the gospel but his actions didn’t reflect the gospel. But before we throw Peter under the bus once again. Peter was not unlike most Christians in finding it difficult to be consistent in spiritual commitment. How could an Apostle be so faithful to the gospel and so easily compromise? Because what Peter did caused a ripple effect in the fellowship. (v13) The bible says they were “carried away” or “led astray” Why though? There would have been numerous times of Barnabas hearing Paul preach the gospel. There would have been numerous times Barnabas himself would preach the clear gospel that salvation is through Christ alone. So why was Barnabas and the others so easily pulled away from the fellowship with the Gentiles?
Let me ask you! Why are we at times so quickly carried away?
Why are we at times so easily led astray when someone says the “bible isn’t trustworthy” Why we are so easily led astray……. When it comes to making a biblical stand on the covenant of marriage with a man/woman only. When it comes to defending a life (at the point of conception) even though it might have been conceived though a terrible situation like for example: Rape and even incest. Why we are so easily led astray……. When it comes to your rights to share your faith anywhere at work or on the streets, or even being a voice to your local MP. When it comes to defending the biblical worldview against same sex marriage and LGBT movements. When it comes to telling someone of another religion that Jesus is the only way to God.
Why are we (why are some) so easily led astray out of fear of what man thinks? The same idea can be applied to something as so simple as a teenager who forsakes his or hers convictions for the approval of their peers. Or an Adult who compromises family and spiritual priorities for professional success. See just like Peter, we know what we are to do but we fail at times to do when confronted with this world or our peers. But, we are never to compromise for the sake of peace and acceptance. For Peter he compromised and became a hypocrite to the Gentiles and at the same time causing his brothers to pull back fellowship as well. Do you realize! That Seventeen times in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus refers to the Pharisees as hypocrites. He doesn’t hesitate to pronounce woes upon them and warns the disciples of the evil of hypocrisy. And now the apostle Peter is guilty of this very serious sin.
“Hypocrite” is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc. The Greek term behind “hypocrisy” is referred to an actor wearing a mask to indicate a particular mood or character…..it’s the idea of someone who masks his true self. The Evangelical churches act the same way especially when it comes to doctrine:
"Oh yes! We believe the Bible. But the Bible most definitely does not teach election and predestination to salvation!"
"Oh yes! We believe the Bible. But the Bible definitely doesn't teach a literal, eternal hell!"
“Oh yes! We believe the Bible. But the Bible certainly doesn't teach that Jesus is God!"
"Oh yes! We believe the Bible. But the Bible certainly doesn't teach inerrancy and infallibility!”
May this never be said of us! See, what Peter did was bring doubt and bondage to the Gentile brothers and We, the church, do the same thing from time to time. This is why this portion of Paul’s letter is one of the most dramatic recorded passages in the New Testament. Paul confronts and rebukes a fellow Apostle in front of the whole gang. He did not do this too openly to embarrass Peter in front of his peers. He did this so everyone could hear the right standing and positon that we all to have in Christ…. Whether you Jew or Gentile…..whether circumcised or uncircumcised. And you can understand the concern Paul had with Peter, especially after what Paul already said to the churches in his opening remarks of chapter one.
How does Paul rebuke Peter? He rebukes him with the truth of the gospel! The same truth Peter proclaimed to the people after Pentecost to some 5000 people. (v15-v21) This public rebuke of Peter by Paul should serve as a warning to all church leaders who either put themselves forward as pastors or elders or deacons, or who are legitimately called of God for leadership in the church as was the case with Peter and all the apostles. No one is above correction for sin in the Body of Christ. A minister of the gospel is never above being confronted for his sin, and if his sin is public that confrontation must be made in public. Paul rebukes Peter solely on the basis of biblical doctrine taught throughout the word of God. Paul rebukes Peter for denying 4 major doctrinal truths based on the fact he drew away out of fear of the Jews (the Judaizers).
See by Peter’s actions he was denying……
Unity of the body of Christ (v14)
Peter was in a sense forcing the Gentiles to live under the Law in order to have genuine fellowship with the Jewish believers. Which lead to destroying the freedom and unity established by Christ’s death on the Cross? In Eph 2:14-19 we read “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” By Peter withdrawing himself and placing regulations and rules to the Gentiles…What he was doing was preaching and practising a different gospel….and that has Damming implications.
Justification by faith alone (v15-v16)
“Justification” refers to the act whereby God declares sinners righteous through their faith in Christ on the basis of Christ’s “perfect” blood and righteousness. The righteousness that only Christ’s accomplished by His perfect obedience in life and death. This act is solely based on the grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. In order to be justified one must be saved by God’s calling out grace. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Rom 5:1-5. It’s through His suffering and life that He becomes our perfection. 2 Cor 5:21 it says “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our righteous standing is solely by grace through faith in Christ alone. When Paul refers to Peter in (v15) “Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners..” What he is saying! Regardless of a Jew or Gentile origin, our justification comes by the same means through Christ alone. Peter needed to be reminded of this…especially after what he stood for and proclaim to the Council in Jerusalem. “Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." Acts 15:7-11. Peter, why are putting a yoke around the Gentiles necks then? Why do we at times put yokes of bondage around each other’s neck?
Liberty from the Law (v17-v19)
By giving the impression that it was sin for a Jewish believer to eat with Gentile believers, Peter was making Christ “the minister of sin” (v17) Why I say that? His freedom to eat with a Gentile was given to him by Christ. Eph 3:6 says “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Paul goes on to say in this letter “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:26-28. By going back under the Law Peter was guilty of building up again the barriers that Christ tore down through His death and resurrection. By Peter drawing back out of fear made himself “a transgressor” by placing himself back under the Law. Because he feared man and it that it would jeopardize his freedom. Church family our liberty if grounded and secured in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
All-sufficiency of the indwelling Christ (v19-v20)
Peter forgot this truth because we are indwelt by Christ. Which means Jesus is our sufficiency…which means “we are complete in Him” We see this wonderful truth when Paul said “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col 2:6-14
Do you realize we frustrate the gospel of the grace of God by adding Law to it?Why? If righteousness could come by keeping Law and our justification comes by my merit, than Christ died for nothing. “There was this woman who had a sick child. The child was in need of some fresh fruit. It was wintertime and fresh fruit was hard to find. She was by the Kings Palace one day and looking into the house, she saw some fresh fruit. She went into the Palace with only a few coins and offered to try buying some fruit. The daughter of the King said no I will give you some fruit. You will take them free or not take them at all.” You know everyone comes to Lord the same way. We can come with our coins and works but salvation to the soul is free and cannot be bought.
No works of man can earn salvation. Jesus has already paid it with his life and it was sufficient once and for all. All who come to Jesus receive the free salvation and are set free. Do you know Jesus? Better yet, does Jesus know you? Believe the great gospel of Christ and do not fear what men can do to you. Believe the great gospel of Christ and do not play the hypocrite. Hold to your Biblical principles and be willing to suffer the consequences. There is great security and comfort in the gospel. Believe the great gospel of Christ and do not nullify the grace of God. So let make it personal for you this morning as we read the closing verses of this chapter together! Because we have been declared righteous by God’s standard, not ours. Read the passage (Gal 2:20-21) together and add you name where you see “I, me,”
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (ESV)
As Paul said “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1